THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
Today is the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower to America in 1620. To mark the day, the four nation Mayflower 400 programme held a naming ceremony for a new unmanned Mayflower vessel in the original ship’s stepping-off point – Plymouth, Devon.
The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) is being described as ‘the future of oceanography,’ with the aim of transforming ocean science, enabling scientists to gather the data they need – with no crew on board - to better understand critical issues including global warming, ocean plastic pollution and marine mammal conservation. It has been built by marine research organisation ProMare, with technology partner IBM.
MAS was officially named at a Plymouth Gin pouring ceremony by the US Ambassador, Robert Wood ‘Woody’ Johnson, in the presence of the Dutch Ambassador and the First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin.
Ambassador Johnson said: “Four centuries after the famous Mayflower voyage across the Atlantic, the US and the UK are once again setting sail from Plymouth to make history. American and British scientists have collaborated to launch a new autonomous Mayflower ship powered by the most cutting-edge artificial intelligence ever known. As we embark on this new era of marine exploration together, it could not be clearer: in America and Britain, the pioneering spirit of the original Mayflower Pilgrims lives on."
Karel van Oosterom, the Dutch Ambassador, commented: “As the Netherlands, we have always been proud of our maritime history and religious tolerance. The story of the Mayflower is part of our history. It highlights the longstanding ties we have with the four nations commemorating, but also reflects what we stand for today. As a trading nation and partner in development, the Netherlands has a leading role in developing creative, innovative and sustainable solutions to global challenges. The launch of the ‘new’ Mayflower is a great example of innovation, both in the field of security and science. Together with the UK – as well as other countries, we work together to contribute to a safer and more sustainable world. Our presence here today, as well as our joint maritime activities in Plymouth are an example of this cooperation.”
Adrian Vinken, Chair of Mayflower 400, added: “It’s fitting that this radical pioneering vessel should receive the Mayflower name 400 years to the day that her namesake left on her original world-changing journey. It’s the perfect way to start this year of national and international cultural activities and collaboration.”
The ship launch is part of the City of Plymouth’s Mayflower 400 anniversary programme, which will extend into 2021 and include community events, exhibitions, performances and plays, the majority being free to attend. The Mayflower trail extends around the three countries involved, with Austerfield, Scrooby & Babworth, Gainsborough, Boston, Immingham, Worcestershire, Chorley, Dorking, Leiden, Holland, Harwich, Rotherhithe, City of London, Southampton, Dartmouth, Plymouth, UK and Plymouth, USA all playing important roles in the story of the Mayflower, its passengers and the other people with whom they became involved.
This anniversary differs from previous ones in that it also reflects the impacts of colonisation in America. The fourth nation in the programme is the Wampanoag Native American tribe, who were responsible for the survival of the Mayflower’s passengers. They have been key partners in the curation of national exhibitions and productions that tell the narrative of which the Mayflower is part.
With over 30 million people being able to trace their ancestry to the people on the ship, the Mayflower400 year will involve four nations, Netherlands, UK, USA and the Wampanoag nation.
For further information go to www.mayflower400uk.org